“Reacting” to potential new Facebook features

Graphic: Dorothy Weiss

These days, it seems normal to get a quirky GIF as a response to a message. Sending an appropriately witty meme or a cute, animated “sticker” to a friend apparently expresses one’s feelings much more than a simple “okay” or “haha.” With responses on the Internet constantly getting more creative, it makes sense that one of the biggest outlets of social media would take a stab at making replies more illustrative than ever. Around September, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook plans to release “Reactions,” a feature that will allow users to do more than just “like” a post. The options, containing expressions named “wow,” “sad,” “haha,” “love,” “yay,” and “angry,” are all animated, cartoony faces that one can select instead of the “like” button. In this way, rather than just getting a count of how many likes a photo has gotten, Facebook plans on showing a count of how many people laughed, smiled, or cried instead.

Graphic: Dorothy Weiss

My initial response to Facebook’s “Reactions” wasn’t quite so cheery. The whole feature seemed both unnecessary and intrusive. I wondered if the numerous additions would clog up my newsfeed or provide way too many options to choose from. A little disappointed, I figured I’d be sticking to my usual set of Facebook stickers.

More recently, though, I’ve started to think that the “Reactions” have a lot of potential in the world of social media. Imagine a page like “Humans of New York,” for example; we’re all pretty familiar with its sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious posts. Does a “like” really cover everyone’s reactions to both kinds of stories it shares? With “Reactions,” one can more appropriately respond to a tragic life story with a response that expresses sadness while still acknowledging the post. Or what if a friend writes a post about some racial injustice she faced the other day? A “like,” in such a case, could seem really misleading. Clicking on an “angry” button instead, then, might seem a lot less controversial.

Graphic: Dorothy Weiss

Put simply, though, Facebook is just keeping up with the times. Our ways of communicating with each other and expressing ourselves keep changing rapidly, and Facebook is finding ways to stay up to speed. Just like how people are no longer satisfied with a text message saying “sure,” likes won’t be able to give posts the recognition they deserve. It’s even possible that a “Reaction” might make a person feel like their post is especially meaningful, and if that helps make social media a friendlier place, we can use all the help we can get. Of course, there’s still the argument that a “Reaction” could be inappropriately used, but that kind of potential lies with every kind of response, from snarky GIFs to even a simple comment.

Graphic: Dorothy Weiss

I’d say Facebook is just evolving along with the rest of our world; technology is obviously growing and getting increasingly complex every day with one more option, one more button, one more sticker pack. We’ve proven again and again that we love these extra additions—more options make us more likely to distinguish ourselves on social media. So I don’t really think these “Reactions” are any different from a Facebook feature like GIPHY; if they make our responses just a little bit more clever, they’ll be here to stay.

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